Kenneth Cohen

Fear of Heaven

The Torah gives very strong emphasis to the importance of יראת שמים, loosely translated as “fear of Heaven.” Moshe Rabbeinu stated this very clearly when he asked, “What is it that Hashem asks of us, but ליראה אותו, “to fear Him.”
Many of the greatest Jews understood the importance of יראה. Men like King David and King Solomon echoed this point.

Perhaps one of the greatest compliments that one can receive, is to be called a ירא שמים, one who fears G-d. This means that all of his actions are motivated by doing what is right in the eyes of Hashem.

The Orchot Tzaddikim mentions three levels of Yirat Hashem. The first is really more fear of man, than fear of G-d. He goes through the motions of serving G-d, when in reality, he does everything to impress others.

The second level is more fear of punishment than fear of Hashem. Such an individual is in a state of trepidation that he might be guilty of the consequences of sin, mentioned in the Torah.

The ideal form of Yirat Hashem comes from a person whose soul is bound deeply with Hashem. He possesses a passionate love to go with this fear, that can never allow him to act improperly in all of his dealings with his fellow man and G-d.
We must work hard to attain this יראת ה׳, as it is an extremely valuable character trait. If you have it, you will be loved and respected by your peers, and your actions will be pleasing in the eyes of Hashem.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at